It had to happen, I forecasted that it
would, that we would have a disaster in this country and that we would be
completely incapable of coping with it, because everyone did the wrong thing.
What we are seeing here are the accumulated effects of decades of incompetence
and contempt for us by those who are supposed to manage our country on our
behalf and it has rendered them incapable of governing properly, or to cope
with any disaster whatsoever. And it is our fault because we did not demand
This is a national disaster not a
disaster confined to regions 3, 4 & 5 the people affected amount to more
than 60 percent of our national population, the courts have shut down, the
ministries have shut down, the schools have shut down, the civil and pubic
service have shut down, all commerce has virtually crunched to a halt, so this is
not a matter that concerns regions 3, 4 & 5 the entire country's administrative
and social infrastructure has collapsed and that is the simple truth.
So let us start at the beginning, so
far in the month of January 2005 we have received about 36 inches of rainfall,
most of which fell from the evening of the 14th January and continued
almost unchecked to the present time Tuesday 18th 2005.
By Monday 17th January because
of this continuous rainfall, areas in regions 3,4 & 5 began to flood heavily
but the flooding was not only as a result of direct rainfall alone, quite a bit
of the flooding was coming from the overtopping of the Boerisiri and Lama conservancies,
some even suspected that there are breaches in the conservancies causing an
already bad situation to become worse.
Now whilst our systems are not designed
to take this sort of rainfall, we in the West Bank and West Coast were spared
what we saw happening in Georgetown and on the East Coast where the drainage
systems seem to be non existent, since our drainage sytem was functioning at
some level of effectiveness. And I am saying again for those who want to hear
the truth, this kind of rainfall is not normal and our system is not designed
to handle it, but it is strange to see the East Coast residents under so much
water since the sugar estates maintain their drainage systems in reasonable
shape, I am still unable to comprehend why I saw people standing in 3-4 feet of
water on the East Coast.
First I want to address how our
government reacted to this emergency.
On Monday 17th January Mr.
Jagdeo called an emergency meeting at which the following disclosures were made
to the opposition; (a) that the Civil Defence Commission was non existent at
this time and that he, Jagdeo, was unable to contact a single person from it
except Dr.Luncheon; but ladies and gentlemen Luncheon is the Chairman of the
commission so can it be that the President did not ask him to explain to the
public why it was non existent, that is how this is supposed to work, we are
paying this man to be our Chief Executive Officer in this country, how can he
tell us that he and his right hand man don't know where the Civil Defence Commission
is. That was the first warning that we were in real trouble and it told me that
the PPP is completely unprepared to deal with any emergency whatsoever in this
(b) At the meeting the President
convened, brigadier Collins from the GDF told him and his Ministers that the
GDF had already set up an operations centre at Ayangana and was ready to mobilise
and to coordinate to help in this emergency, the President then made his first
of many blunders on this day, he told the GDF to stand down, that they were to
render reconnaissance information only but that he and his Ministers, all
political incompetents, would handle the situation and that the operations centre
would be at State House, which by the way was flooded out. That is why you have
not seen engineers, doctors or people with training and experience coming to
your aid in this crisis ladies and gentlemen.
(c) So faced with this huge disaster Mr.
Jagdeo himself makes it a political football by telling the GDF to stand down
and sent his incompetent political comrades Shadik, Collymore, Xavier,
Westford, Sam Hinds and so on, to get a report on the situation, after doing
this Mr. Jagdeo then had the temerity to tell all the media assembled that he
does not want this to become a political football.
Well Mr. President, I, Anthony Vieira, a
citizen of this country, am accusing you of making it a political football by
the first decision you made.
Handling a situation like this comes
down to prioritising the situation and this comes from receiving accurate and
up to date information and by mobilising forces trained to deal with such
emergencies. Not the confusion we are witnessing from the executive.
The second mistake Mr. Jagdeo made on
this day was to tell us that the Civil Defence Commission was non existent, but
he did not ask Mr. Luncheon the Chairman of this Commission to tell the people
of this country why it was non existent. To this time Mr. Luncheon has told us
nothing. We require that he tells us what happened to it, I also want to know
if we have been paying the members of this Commission and if we were, we want
this money back.
The third mistake was not declaring a
state of emergency immediately which would have allowed him to access monies from
the Caribbean Development Bank set aside for these kinds of situations. There
is also credible evidence that Mr. Jagdeo refused to accept help offered to him
by the Americans, clearly he wanted political mileage from this distress on the
Guyanese people, but what his Ministers are doing is a bigger disaster than the
The fourth mistake was to underestimate
the needs of this disaster, allocating 20 million dollars is a joke this is a
situation if addressed properly would cost at least 100 million to feed and
help those who are dispossessed.
Then came mistake number five Mr. Jagdeo
denied reports that the Lama dam had given away, he claimed that the Lama dam
was merely overtopping, well Mr. Jagdeo did we not pay B.K. Tiwari 400 Million
Dollars to raise the bank of the Lama and is it not true that today the Lama is
not capable of holding water at 58.8 GD as it was capable of doing before Mr.
Tiwari interfered with it? Is it not also true that the Lama level is less than
57 GD right now, 1.8 ft. lower than it was capable of holding water before Mr.
Tiwari interfered with it? So why is it overtopping? Are the people at the IDB asking
where this money they lent us to raise this dam went? Whether it was a break
away or it was overtopping, it all boils down to incompetence and corruption
and all of the people on the East Coast should combine their economic power and
sue the hell out of the Government for this alone.
So what we have is a situation where
too small an amount of 20 million is being allocated to a substandard,
untrained, incompetent force to handle this situation and the results are being
felt everywhere even as we are watching our property floating away, a great
pity that the PPP are not floating away with it, so I repeat there is no credible
evidence that any substantial amount of relief is being brought to those
affected, no money, no water, no food, the plan seems to be to tell those
affected to report at some fictitious place where they will be helped and when
they turn up there nothing happens.
A proper plan would be for the
Government to tell the people through advertising on TV and radio where to go
within their areas and what relief will be given to them especially rice, sugar,
flour and water and what time and place the distribution will start, have any
of you seen this announcement? I haven't!
But imagine the confusion and ineptness
that prompts a desperate confused President to tell his people to go to the
nearest shop and take credit for goods which according to all reports have already
been destroyed by flooding, i.e. flour, rice, sugar etc. and imagine the
concept of them taking it to their flooded homes in which they cannot live and
cook it, it's the most ridiculous thing I ever heard.
Everywhere you turn in this country you
see Chinese and other cook shops, what is wrong with co-opting all of them in
an economic arrangement and let them prepare food for those affected, in Pouderoyen
for example there are at least 3 Chinese restaurants and other eating places my
first thought when I visited this area today the 18th January, was,
why the government did not give these Chinese cook shops rice, oil, Chicken and
so on to prepare food for those affected, why can't the government make an
arrangement with all of the hotels and restaurants in the country to provide
these meals and let the GDF deliver it to the neighbourhood councils until the
situation settles down, what do we have Neighbourhood Councils for, let the members
oversee that the sharing of food is conducted fairly, that is how you mobilise
people and let them be real leaders in their communities that is how you have
an effective response to this disaster not the nonsense we see going on.